Ding! Ding! I did The Fling!

I’m not really sure what drew me to sign up for The Fling, a 53 mile race from Milngavie to Tyndrum along the West Highland Way, considering I don’t do a lot of local races, preferring to race abroad, and also that the WHW is part of my regular training run but for some reason I was drawn to ticking this off my ever growing list of must do races.

The race came around quicker than I had hoped. The start to the year had been more hectic than I planned; starting a new job with Village Hotel Edinburgh along with finally having Dion and Gobi home from China (see Finding Gobi for more on this adventure); all of which I’d imagined as being the start to a new ‘routine’, a steady state of life to crack back on with training and life in general. As they say about the best laid plans….exactly that! Life was far from routine. It took a couple of months for Dion and Gobi to find their new rhythm alongside Lara and I, and amongst it all both Dion and I were finding it hard to sync our training around the demands of our new girl Gobi and their subsequent book releases, which resulted in more days out having a walk and finishing at a cafe or pub rather than putting in the required training. Not that the weather helped either mind you. I try to be hardy but I’m a fair weather runner at heart.

I had glimpses of getting back to training properly with a few solid mileage weeks and making good use of my new run commute into my amazing new gym (a perk of the job) with a strong focus on building strength in my legs and glutes with the aid of my PT. My PT Huw has got me strengthening the key muscles to make me a stronger mountain and endurance runner and I can certainly feel it has been working. A lot of work on single leg exercises, deadlifts, squats, lunges and a combination of upper body has made my body hurt in ways I didn’t know possible but it has reaped benefits. My legs felt strong throughout the race and I was out doing a recovery hike the following 2 days which certainly is testament to stronger muscles.

When I’d signed up for the race in late 2016 I’d envisaged my training going so well I’d be aiming for a sub 10 hour finish but as race day approached I knew this wasn’t realistic and had revised back to a sub 12 hour finish. Through the positivity of Dion and a visiting friend Euan, we revised this to still push for 10 and see where it took me. My ultimate goal is to finish feeling strong and with a smile on my face.

IMG_3225

Rhianon, me and Em at the start line, all smiles.

Race day! Milngavie only gets this busy twice a year, at Fling time and of course for the West Highland Way race which takes in the full 97 miles of the route. Out of the 1,000 runners congregated I felt like I knew most of them so there was a lot of pre race chat as we gathered to head off. I started off way too fast, chatting with a pal Em before she pushed on and I dropped back to a more sustainable pace. Glad I did when I later found out Em had finished in 9hrs 42m!  She was on top form, well done to her.

IMG_3237

Reaching the top of Conic Hill

The first 19 miles of this race are hard to hold back on as it is very runnable and mixed with the adrenaline of a race can be a dangerous mix. I was excited to reach Balmaha and see Dion to refuel and swiftly carry on. I felt strong coming into Rowardennan which was the halfway point, one marathon down, just one to go 😉 my feeling of contentment was shattered soon after as I was enjoying a little jog out of the checkpoint drinking my coconut water and tripped! Bruised ego and blood ensued (just a minor cut on my palm) but back into it. From here the route gets a bit more technical and with a marathon already under your belt the pace tends to drop as everyone is taking a bit more care through this section.

IMG_3223

A-Team support crew, Rhianon

Reaching Bein Glas I am lifted by the sight of not only Rhianon holding one of her infamous motivational signs and cheering but she’s even managed to get Dion to hold up a sign! After a quick lick for good luck from Gobi I’m off again. There’s just half a marathon to go and this is the stage I know I just have to dig deep and get it done. The legs are fatigued, feet a little sore and I’m feeling quite sluggish not long after I leave the checkpoint.

It’s a tough slog through cow pat alley before I reach Crianlarich hill where my lovely support crew are along with the wonderful Beardy and Blondie, it’s a party atmosphere on the hill giving my spirit a boost before the last final climb. It’s a slow climb up and the rain starts so I faff around putting a jacket on as my body is now fatigued I immediately feel cold. The descent over the other side is hard work on the quads (more work needed on those) but I’m rewarded with a surprise crew cheer spot just before Auchtertyre by Dion and Rhianon hiding out in a farm shed. I’d realised just before reaching there that with only 3 miles left to run, if I could maintain 10min/mile I could make it in 11 hours which spurred me on so much I don’t think I let my excitement of seeing them show enough as I just ran straight through!

As I come towards Tyndrum the sound of bagpipes fill the air followed by the ringing of the cowbells; the finish line! It’s here! I’m still running and I’m smiling and I’m finishing in 11 hours! I hit the red carpet to the cheers of the crowd, including Dion, Gobi and Rhianon and the finishers medal is mine.

IMG_3243

Smiling and still running along the red carpet to the finish line👍

Advertisements

Run The Blades

On the drive over from Edinburgh to Glasgow basking in the Scottish summer of lashing rain and high winds I did question the sanity of going to run a 50 km ultra through Whitelee Wind Farm, the largest on shore wind farm in the UK. What made me question this even further was Dion egging me on even further to “Sack it off and head to a greasy spoon”! But thanks to the lovely event organisers from Breaking Strain Events, Garry and Lee, who had kindly given us free entry to try out the inaugural running of the event we felt we couldn’t let them down. It was also part of my training plan to fit in the 50k so it needed to be done one way or another and I’d never run in a wind farm before which for some reason I really wanted to.

Ominous looking weather at  Whitelee wind farm

Ominous looking weather at Whitelee wind farm

On arrival the race banners were up, just, nearly being taken away by the winds (obviously they found the right location for the wind farm!) and the guys explained they did have some race marquees but couldn’t keep them down in the weather so suggested to hang out at the interesting visitor centre until the pre-race briefing at 9:40am. Thankfully the cafe in the centre wasn’t open otherwise Dion might have got his way with a fry up and watching the race from afar.

Soaking up the weather at the start

Soaking up the weather at the start

A quick brief to explain what the race markings looked like and to warn us that if we saw lightning to call the emergency number straight away, none was forecast thankfully, but if it came the race would most likely be cut short as wind turbines are highly vulnerable to strikes. To save us getting cold once the briefing was done the race began immediately and it was a nice wee downhill to start. For the first kilometre it felt like we were all out for a social run together more than a race as there was a group of about 10 of us just easing into the run, we were probably all suffering from cold bodies so once we warmed up the pack split up pretty quickly and spread out. Even though it was wet and windy, it was humid and having started in a waterproof jacket it suddenly dawned on me it wasn’t a good idea wearing it so I dropped from the main pack to take it off losing sight of the first lady. Dion who had started extremely slowly as thoughts of dropping from the race due to weather finally managed to get warm and get going and as he went past me I then enjoyed seeing him ahead pick off the mid pack and work his way up to the front of the race. This pushed me on to pick up my pace and work hard on chasing down the first female ahead.

Start line - don't we all look warm & cosy?!

Start line – don’t we all look warm & cosy?!

The race was a little toughie, with 1,400m of ascent over unforgiving hard-packed trails which I certainly felt in the ankle joints and groin muscles towards the end and afterwards. Some sections were rocky, still runnable but that awkward rock where your ankles are turning left to right, and of course the 30mph winds along with the drenching rain throughout added another element of toughness. I worked hard to the first checkpoint overtaking first lady along the way. I knew there was a solid field of females capable of chasing me down so I used that energy to push me through the tough conditions on offer.

Being the inaugural event it was pretty low key but well organised, the route was well marked with no chance of getting lost and the checkpoints, though basic, had water, an electrolyte mix, some bits of food to choose from and portaloos at each one. I carried my own gels, went through 4 gels and some energy chews as I prefer to rely on myself for my nutrition and just take water from the checkpoints, and a cheeky swig of some coke at the 3rd and last checkpoint of the day. Kudos to the volunteers stood out in that weather to support the runners, I’d rather be running any day, and at least you stand a chance of keeping warm!

I’d never run through a wind farm before and it was fun running under these huge wind turbines making the loud whooshing noise as you ran underneath them, I kept feeling like I needed to duck as it would knock my head off but they were obviously way up above me.

selfie

Whilst I’d won stages of multi stage events before I’ve never gone on to win a race completely so this was a big step up for me and my first chance to run through the winners tape was a great experience, one I am very keen to repeat. Finishing 1st lady with a time of 4h 55m I was one satisfied customer. Dion did amazingly well too, coming in 3rd overall in 4h 12m. His training has really started to pickup again from his recent health issues at West Highland Way race a few weeks earlier and I know he’s building to some bigger results going forward. Both of us left with our confidence built up and having met a great new group of people, and an old favourite of course with Graham Kelly waiting at the finish line to cheer us in.

First lady!

First lady! Photo courtesy of GrahamKelly

Fancy running in a wind farm then come along and give this race a go, I think it will grow to be a much bigger race in a few years to come and even with good weather this would be a tough race as it is so exposed it will never be an easy one.

With the legs almost recovered, I’m off to try out another inaugural event this Sunday 26th July, the Fort William Marathon up in the Scottish highlands.

Number 1

Number 1